I always had a few movies I was obssessed with growing up, had seen them hundreds of times but never gave any thought about production or the craft and artistic process that went into making a film.
But when I saw Casino for the first time...it just floored me. I remember I sat there for like 20 minutes and couldn't believe what an impact it had on me. The editing, the acting, the directing, the look (cinematography), everything. I had never been so overwhelmed by so many aspects of a movie, particularly ones that I never really paid attention to. Hell, I never even considered the impact a "director" had on a film. It never occured to me that this movie was so good because one person's vision made it that way. The next week I rented everything I could find that had the names "Scorsese" and "De Niro" involved, and that was it. I changed my major in college to "Film study", and the rest is film geek history.
Every time I watch that movie, I notice something else. These years later when I've become much more interested in cinematography and now worked in the field and had some experience, I still can't get over how technical the camera is in this. I checked the credits, and there were three steadicam operators on this! Of course the great Colin Anderson was involved too. (I'm so honored to have been able to work with that guy so early in my career)
But what really gets me, after all this digression, is Richardson's cinematography. There's no way you can watch a single picture he's worked on and NOT known within five minutes it's him.
What does he do to achieve that hazy, fuzzy look with the light? I noticed in a lot of scenes in "Casino", they'll be sitting around a table and it almost looks like the light is coming from underneath the table, that the table is the key light source. It seems like he uses a lot of harsh, direct light but somehow softens it up so it glows.
There's a shot in the famous scene where Ace takes the two cheaters in the back room and smashed the guy's hand with a hammer. When the other culprit is brought in, De Niro, on the line: "Now I'm gonna give you a choice; you can have the money and the hammer, or you can just walk out of here. Ya can't have both." He walks to his mark, and at the end of the line he's standin there and this crazy harsh, glowing light is right on his hands where he's holding his cigarette and on the top of his head. It's just crazy looking (in a good way), and I was thinking "What is the aesthetic motivation to have him stop in that spot and have such an exclusive light on his hand?"
It really stands out, and I've never really seen anyone else utilize this effect. One of the scenes it stands out the most is towards the end, after Nicky and Ace have their argument in the desert and are kind of on the outs. Ace and his entourage walk into a night club/restaurant area in the Casino where Nicky and his crew are also sitting in a table across the room. Ace sits down and doesn't even acknowledge Nicky, much to Nicky's ire. (The shot starts out with "Whip It" from Devo on the soundtrack, and a gorgeous overhead tracking shot follows Ace and his people walking with an undercrank effect) The light in this scene is just super, super hazy and glowing.
Now, does Richardson do this in the development process, or is it a certain stock of film that he uses for this effect, or both, or is it lenses? What?? I'm just wondering how the hell he pulls that off. After shooting my own short film on 35 (mostly 5218 Kodak stock, I directed and had a DP) and then seeing in post, I'm fascinated on how to make certain effects on what stocks and with what light.
Problem is, it's all very complicated and technical and I'm quite a neophyte in this area. I'm a director and a rookie 2nd AC, if I want to go for a certain look I need to know how to achieve it. It's like painting on a pallette with different kinds of paint, only instead of a pallette it's a film frame and instead of paint it's film stock and processing.
I figure if I look into how to get such a blatant effect, like the stuff Richardson does, it'll pave the way to figure out how to get my own crazy looks and styles on film. So if anyone can tell me what he does to pull this off, I'd be much obliged.
Edited by Luke from the Valley, 02 December 2006 - 04:10 PM.